Color Matching

19 Feb

Color MatchingAre your logo colors easily reproducible in both digital and physical format?

When picking your logo colors color you should always consider your end product display.  Is your business strictly on the web or will your materials appear in print too?  If your one of the lucky few who operates a successful business strictly from your laptop, your color palette is fairly simple to manage.  You just restrict your color choice to a web safe color palette (colors are commonly described in a hexadecimal, alpha-numeric value).  These days the advancement in monitor display quality, in my humble opinion, has pretty much put internet graphics on a level playing field. What we mean is that when you choose your color it will very likely always look the same from one digital platform to the next. Now print presents a different challenge.

If you’re looking to match your web logo to a print environment, you should probably restrict your choice of logo colors to an accepted standard. The most common color palette for the North American market (and closest thing to an accepted standard for the United States) is the Pantone Matching System, commonly referred to as PMS.  Keep in mind, Pantone markets several different families, or color palettes, of standardized inks.  The best match for your monitor display will likely be found in a “Coated” swatch book.  Always avoid metallic or fluorescent swatches; these colors are always outside of the range (called gamut) of your most common color monitor.

The next step is to buy the swatch book. You should always (as in religiously) refer to the official accepted standard for color.  Open up the swatch book and match your monitor logo colors to the appropriate PMS swatch.

Now reproducing your logo colors is the printer’s problem. Printing a PMS color code to match the way you see it on your monitor takes a combination of a couple things. One is a sophisticated RIP system that manually manages the file into a printable format. Part number two is a competent and professional pre-press technician who will always take the important steps required to color match your file to the specific output capability of a particular inkjet plotter, latex plotter, flatbed printer, web press, etc.

The final piece of the output puzzle is the output unit. Without a high color-range (gamut) device, the color matching process can all fall apart. A 5-ink printer cannot provide the same color gamut that a 12-ink printer can. A general rule is, the more ink colors, the larger the color gamut. The higher DPI rating, the better quality within that color gamut.

So next time you decide you’ve got the perfect image for print, remember to consider asking a few questions about that printer’s RIP. Do they have a pre-press technician? What kind of printer will they be outputting your graphic on? Will they do color matching? You’ll save yourself some time and stress determining early on if they’re willing to meet your standards.

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